Theme Connections Nature's Fury

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Then the brave chief carried her body to the highest mountains. He laid her gently in a bed of beautiful flowers and sat down beside her.

Days passed. Finally, one of the good gods transformed the warrior and the princess into two volcanoes. Ixy remains quiet. But from time to time, Popo trembles and tears of fire flow from his heart. Then all of Mexico knows that Popo is crying for his beloved princess.


Theme Wrap-Up

Check Your Progress

In this theme you have read about nature's most powerful displays, from earthquakes to lightning to volcanoes. Now read and compare two new exam­ples of nature's fury and practice your test-taking skills.

Start by looking back at the letter from Warren Faidley on pages 23-24 of your book. Think about how his account of his experiences during Hurricane Andrew gets you ready for looking at nature in a new way.

As you read the next two selections about a tornado and a blizzard, compare the way they show people coping with the power of nature.


Read and Compare

Night of the Twisters

By Ivy Ruckman

In a small town, three boys are at home alone during a monster tornado.

Try these strategies:




By Jim Murphy

Read about the terrible Blizzard of 1888 in New York City.

Try these strategies:


Monitor and Clarify

Strategies in Action

Make use of all your reading strategies as you read the selections.

106 A

Night of the Twisters



A siren has been sounding a tornado alert for the town of Grand Island, Nebraska. Dan Hatch's parents are away, leaving Dan and his friend Arthur alone in the house with Dan's baby brother, Ryan. While Arthur listens to the radio, Dan checks on Ryan. Maybe the storm will blow over, he thinks as he leaves Ryan's room.

Quietly, I closed the door behind me. That's when the lights started flickering.

In the hallway, I practically had a head-on with Arthur, who was coming at me real fast. The look on his face scared me.

"There's no ... there's no . . :' "What?"

"There's no radio reception anymore. It just went dead! This guy. . . . He kept saying, 'Tornado alert, tornado alert!' Then it went dead:'

We rushed back to the living room. The TV was flashing these big letters that filled the entire screen: CD ... CD ... CD ... "What's it mean?" Arthur cried.

"Civil Defense Emergency!" I whirled around. "I'm getting Ryan!" The lights flickered again.

At the same time we heard these really strange sounds that stopped us in our tracks. They were coming from the bathroom and the kitchen. Sucking sounds. The drains were sucking!   I felt this awful pulling in my ears, too, as if there were vacuums on both sides of my head.


"I've got to go home!" Arthur cried all of a sudden, bolting for the door.

I ran after him. "You're not - you can't!" I grabbed the back of his T-shirt, hauled him around, and pushed him toward the stairs. "Get down there. I have to get Ryan! Now go!"

I don't know what I'd have done if he hadn't minded me. We were catching the fear from each other, and even though the siren was screaming on and off again, so I didn't know what it was telling us, I knew we had to take cover fast.

The lights went out for good just before I reached Ryan's room.

I smashed face first into Ryan's butterfly mobile. That's how I knew I was at the crib. I felt for him, got my hands under his nightshirt and dia­per, rolled him over. I lifted him, but we didn't get far. He was caught in the mobile, his arm or his head ... I couldn't see ... I couldn't get him loose....

"Mom!" I yelled, though I knew she wasn't there.

I tried to lay him down again, but he was so tangled, part of him was still up in the air. He started to cry.

"Wait, Ryan, I'll get you out!" But I couldn't.

Finally, holding him with my left arm, I climbed onto the side of the crib. My right hand followed the string up the mobile, way up to the hook. I yanked it loose. The whole thing came crashing down on top of us as I jumped backward off the crib.

The plastic butterfly poking me was poking Ryan, too, but I didn't care. The tornado was close, and I knew it. Both my ears had popped, and I had this crazy fear that those drains, sucking like monsters now, would get us if the storm didn't.

Arthur was at the bottom of the stairs, waiting. He'd found the flashlight! I jumped the last half-flight to the floor.

"Hurry!" I screamed. I swung into the doorway of the bathroom, with Arthur right behind me. We crouched under the towel rack. "Shine it here, on Ryan;" I gasped. "He's caught in this thing:" By now Ryan was kicking and screaming, and his eyes were big in the light.


Once we got the mess of strings free of Ryan's sweaty nightshirt, Arthur kicked the mobile against the wall by the toilet.

"I have to go home!" he cried. "They won't go to the basement. Mama never does:"

The beam of light bounced around the blackness of the bathroom as Arthur scrambled to his feet, but I grabbed and held on to him.

"You can't go!            It's here! Can't you feel it?"

The siren quit again as I pulled him back down and threw my leg over him. The flashlight clattered to the floor and rolled away from us. We heard it next. The lull. The deadliest quiet ever, one that makes you think you might explode. The heat in that room built until I couldn't get my breath.

Then I began to hear noises. A chair scraping across the kitchen floor upstairs.

"Your mom's back!" Arthur said, pushing at my leg. I knew it wasn't my mother moving the chair.

The noises got worse. It seemed as if every piece of furniture was moving around up there ... big, heavy things, smashing into each other.


A window popped. Crash! Another.

Glass, shattering - everywhere - right next to us in the laundry room.

I pulled a towel down over Ryan and held him tight. If he was still crying, I didn't know it because I was feeling the sucking this time. It was like something trying to lift my body right up off the floor.

Arthur felt it, too. "We're going to die!"

Ten seconds more and that howling, shrieking tornado was upon us. "The blanket!" I screamed at Arthur's ear.

He pulled it down from the countertop and we covered ourselves, our hands shaking wildly. I wasn't worrying about my mom then or my dad or Mrs. Smiley. Just us. Ryan and Arthur and me, huddled together there on the floor.


The roaring had started somewhere to the east, then came bearing down on us like a hundred freight trains. Only that twister didn't move on. It stationed itself right overhead, making the loudest noise I'd ever heard, whining worse than any jet. There was a tremendous crack, and I felt the wall shudder behind us. I knew then our house was being ripped apart. Suddenly chunks of ceiling were falling on our heads.

We'll be buried! was all I could think.

At that moment, as plain as anything above that deafening roar, I heard my dad's voice: The shower's the safest place.

I didn't question hearing it. Holding Ryan against me with one arm, I began crawling toward the shower stall. I reached back and yanked at Arthur's shirt. Somehow we got inside with the blanket. Another explosion, and the glass shower door shattered all over the bathroom floor. We pulled the blanket over our heads. I could feel Ryan's heart beating through his undershirt against mine. Outside those places where our bodies touched, there was nothing but terror as the roar of that tornado went on and on. I thought the world was coming to an end, had come to an end, and so would we, any minute.

Then I felt Ryan's fat fingers close around one of mine. He pulled my hand to his mouth and started sucking on my finger. It made me cry. The tears ran down my cheeks and onto his head. With the whole world blowing to pieces around us, Ryan took my hand and made me feel better.

Afterward, neither Arthur nor I was able to say how long we huddled there in the basement shower.

"A tornado's forward speed is generally thirty to fifty miles an hour;" the meteorologist had told us.

Our tornado's forward speed was zero. It parked right there on Sand Crane Drive. Five minutes or ten, we couldn't tell, but it seemed like an hour. Roaring and humming and shrieking, that twister was right on top of us. I'll never be that scared again as long as I live. Neither will Arthur.




On March 12, 1888, one of the most destructive blizzards in history struck the eastern United States from Virginia to Maine. By the following day, snow, wind, and ice posed great danger for people trying to go back to work, especially in the city of New York.


In New York City and Brooklyn, the early-morning commuters were shocked when they saw the East River. It looked like a solid sheet of ice. People immediately rushed to the riverbanks and began to speculate on how thick the ice might be and whether it was safe to walk on. Up close, the distance across looked immense and the ice was clearly not a single sheet, but many big and small ice floes jammed together. No one rushed to be first on the ice.

It was then that a Brooklyn boy of eighteen lowered a ladder onto the ice. Cautiously he climbed down, then proceeded to jump up and down several times. As he came back toward his ladder, he announced that

"She's safe as the United States Mint!"

Instantly, many onlookers announced that they wanted to cross the ice bridge. On the Brooklyn side, the boy gladly held his ladder as one hardy soul after another came down, though he made it clear that the fee to use his ladder would be five cents.

"His pockets bulged with coins," one observer noted. "Soon a long file of pedestrians surely numbering at least two hundred were slowly edg­ing toward the Manhattan shore." Similar business operations were set up on the Manhattan side, and in no time at all, the ice swarmed with people.


Another group of ice-crossers also appeared. The unnamed observer recalled that "all the dogs in Brooklyn ... came barking and bounding onto the [ice] field as well. The pooches were of all sizes, shapes, and varieties.... Perhaps they, too, had sensed the drama and historic import of the occasion."

More than just men and dogs crossed the ice bridge. Several women were spotted making the journey, while hordes of boys slid down the icy pilings and raced across the expanse. And at least one horse was hoisted over the side in a sling-harness and ridden to Brooklyn by its owner. Police on both sides of the river tried to halt the stream of adventur­ers, but with little success. Other ladder entrepreneurs had appeared, and now there were more spots where a person could get onto the ice than policemen to block them.

Not everyone had an easy crossing. Many slipped on the treacherous ice or were blown over by the still-fierce wind. A few of the elderly adventurers had to be carried to shore. For over an hour and a half, people and animals paraded from one shore to the other. While no one kept an official count, the policemen on duty that day estimated that between 1,500 and 3,000 walked across the river.


The cheerful mood of the crowd began to subside just after 9 A.M. That was when a deep, ominous grumbling began coming from the ice. The tide was beginning to shift, pushing at the ice to shove it downriver. Meanwhile, three powerful tugs had been ordered out to batter and break the floe in order to free up the river for navigation. When those operat­ing the ladder-climbing concessions noticed this, they raised their prices to twenty-five cents.

Those on the ice realized the danger they were in and hurried to the closest shore. All of the dogs must have sensed something also, because they fled the ice as well. A large squad of police arrived and began ordering the ladders pulled up and watchers away from the ice. "Very many refused to obey," a reporter for the Sun noted. "When the ladders were taken away, they let themselves down from the piers.... They thirsted for glory"


Just then, the tide turned and began exerting immense pressure down­river. The giant cake of ice began to move very slowly. "There were over a hundred persons on the ice at this moment," the Sun reporter went on. "Most of them broke into a run. Loud were the cries [by those on the riverbank] to get to the shore."

When the ice broke free and began moving seaward, there were between forty and fifty people still on it. The ice came close to the Fulton Ferry pier and some of the stranded tried to grab hold, but the pilings were too slippery. They were close enough that the Sun reporter could see that "some exchanged cool jokes with those on the docks. One quietly asked to have a tug sent down for him; another requested a stove; still another shouted that he'd cable from Europe.... One man sank down on his knees and prayed."

The ice inched along and collided with a collection of piers on the New York City side. There was a horrible crunching sound as ice met wood, and then the floe came to a shivering stop. In the few minutes it was lodged there, men on the docks lowered down ladders and ropes and man­aged to pull almost everyone up to safety. Then the floe broke free and continued downriver.

There were still a number of men trapped on smaller chunks of ice heading toward New York Bay and the open sea. Three bobbed about near the Brooklyn shore, while five were close to Manhattan.

The Sun reporter took up the story of the three Brooklyn men. "The ice cracked merrily. Then it bulged up, separated and each young man was launched upon a separate cake of ice. The men shouted frantically and waved their arms.... Two of the men were on neighboring ice cakes. One finally made a dangerous jump to the cake nearer the shore on which the other stood. The crowd shouted approval, [and] told them to keep their hearts."


A rope with a rock attached to it was eventually tossed to these men and they were hauled to shore and rescued.

"The other young man, who was irreproachably dressed and carried a satchel, was on a cake scarcely twenty-five feet in diameter. He ran from edge to edge, till each time he nearly slipped in the water, and showed such terror that terror was communicated to those on shore."

Farther and farther out the desperate man drifted, and many watchers felt he would be lost. Then the tugboat S.E. Babcock managed to plow through a large chunk of ice and swing in close enough for the man to be brought on board.

Meanwhile, the five men near Manhattan were floating out rapidly. Three were on a rather large slab of ice, while two were each on cakes that the Sun reporter said were "the size of door mats."

First, a tug nudged the large floe into shore until it hit a wharf and the three men leaped off. Then the tug went after the two last floaters. When they were finally hauled up and safe "the thousands of men on the riverside and the Bridge yelled their applause in rounds of cheers and screams."


Think and Compare

1. Compare the danger of the tornado in Night of the Twisters with the danger of the ice floes in Blizzard! What do the two situations have in common? How are they different?

2. How well-prepared do you think people were in 1888 to face a natural disaster com­pared with people today? Explain.

3. Compare what you learned about tornadoes in Night of the Twisters and in Eye of the Storm. Which selection seems scarier or more realistic? Use examples to tell why.

4. Compare Dan with Jonathan in Earthquake Terror How are the characters alike and different?

5. How have Night of the Twisters and Blizzard! added to or changed your feelings about nature at its most dangerous?

Strategies in Action

Which reading strategies did you use most while reading this theme? How did they help?


Write a Weather Report

Write a paragraph telling about a fictional thunderstorm, blizzard, or tornado. Include details about what will happen and how people can stay safe.


Think about the damage the storm might cause to land and buildings.

Think about the movement in the storm, such as its speed and direction.

Think about how long the storm will last.


Taking Tests

Choosing the Best Answer

To answer a multiple-choice test question, you need to decide which is the best answer. A test about Night of the Twisters might have this question.

Read the question. Choose the best answer and fill in the circle in the answer row.

1.           When Dan realizes that the tornado is getting close, what is the first thing he does?

A            He closes Ryan's door.

B            He goes to get Ryan.

C            He sends Arthur downstairs.

D            He crawls into the shower stall.

1. Understand the question. Find the key words. Use them to understand what you need to do.

I think the key words are realizes and first. I need to find out what Dan does right after he realizes that the tornado is coming.         

2. Look back at the selection. Think about where to find the answer. You may need to look in more than one place. Skim the selection, using the key words.

I go to the part where Dan sees the CD warning on TV. That's when he knows the tornado is close by.

3. Narrow the choices. Then choose the best answer. Find the choices that are clearly wrong. Have a good reason for choosing an answer. Guess only if you have to.

A happens too early to be right, and D happens too late. C could be right, but Dan goes to get Ryan before he sends Arthur downstairs. So I choose B.


Focus on Genre

Tall Takes


Tall Tales

Out on the frontier of the 1800s, American settlers liked to exaggerate. They created heroes and heroines who were larger than life and did amazing deeds. The result was a new kind of story - the tall tale.

Tall tales are still told today. After you read these examples, add to the tradition and write your own!


Paul Bunyan, the Mightiest Logger of Them A11..... 110 retold by Mary Pope Osborne

John Henry Racesthe Steam Drill .... 114 retold by Paul Robert Walker

Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind .... 119 retold by Mary Pope Osborne

February.......125 from McBroom's Almanacby Sid Fleischman


Focus on Genre

Tall Tales

As loggers changed the landscape of America in the 1800s, they told tales about a giant lumberjack of incredible strength. Paul Bunyan quickly became a folk legend from Maine to the Pacific Northwest.

Paul Bunyan, the Mightiest Logger of Them All

Retold by Mary Pope Osborne Illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg

It seems an amazing baby was born in the state of Maine. When he was only two weeks old, he weighed more than a hundred pounds, and for breakfast every morning he ate five dozen eggs, ten sacks of potatoes, and a half barrel of mush made from a whole sack of cornmeal. But the baby's strangest feature was his big, curly black beard. It was so big and bushy that every morning his mother had to comb it with a pine tree.

Except for that black beard, the big baby wasn't much trouble to anybody until he was about nine months old. That was when he first started to crawl, and since he weighed over five hundred pounds, he caused an earthquake that shook the whole town.

The baby's parents tried putting him in a giant floating cradle off the coast of Maine; but every time he rolled over, huge waves drowned all the villages along the coast.


So his parents hauled the giant toddler to a cave in the Maine woods far away from civilization and said good-bye. His father gave him a fishing pole, a knife, some flint rocks, and an axe. "We'll think of you often, honey," his mother said, weeping. "But you can't come back home - you're just too big."

That's the story of how Paul Bunyan came to take care of himself in the Maine woods. And even though he lived alone for the next twenty years, he got along quite well.

In those times, huge sections of America were filled with dark green forests. It would be nice if those trees could have stayed tall and thick forever. But the pioneers needed them to build houses, churches, ships, wagons, bridges, and barns. So one day Paul Bunyan took a good look at those trees and decided to invent logging.

"Timber!" he yelled, and he swung the bright steel axe his father had given him in a wide circle. There was a terrible crash, and when Paul looked around, he saw he'd felled ten white pines with a single swing.

After that Paul traveled plenty fast through the untamed North Woods. He cut pine, spruce, and red willow in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He cleared cottonwoods out of Kansas so farmers could plant wheat and oaks out of Iowa so farmers could plant corn.

When next heard of, Paul was headed to Arizona. He dragged his pickaxe behind him on the trip, not realizing he was leaving a big ditch in his tracks. Today that ditch is called the Grand Canyon.

When Paul got back from the West, he decided to start a logging camp. Word spread fast. Since all the woodsmen had heard of Paul Bunyan, thousands of them hurried to Paul's headquarters at Big Onion on the Big Onion River in Minnesota to be part of his crew

"There's only two requirements;" Paul announced to the men who'd gathered to apply for the job. "All my loggers have to be over ten feet tall and be able to pop six buttons off their shirts with one breath:'

Well, about a thousand of the lumberjacks met those requirements, and Paul hired them all. Then he built a gigantic logging camp with


bunkhouses a mile long and bunks ten beds high. The camp's chow table was so long that it took a week to pass the salt and pepper from one end to the other. Paul dug a few ponds to provide drinking water for everyone. Today we call those ponds the Great Lakes.

Things went pretty well at the Big Onion Lumber Company until the Year of the Hard Winter. One day Shot Gunderson, the crew boss, complained to Paul, "Boss, it's so cold that the flames for all the lanterns are freezing. And, Boss, when I give orders to the woods crew, all my words freeze in the air and hang there stiff as icicles:"

"Well, haul away your frozen words and store them somewhere next to the lantern flames;" Paul advised. "They'll both thaw out in the spring:" Sure enough, they did. The only problem was that, come spring, the melting lantern flames started some mean little brush fires. And when Shot's frozen words thawed, old cries of "Timber!" and "Chow time!" started to echo throughout the woods, causing all sorts of confusion. But other than that, things ran pretty smoothly.

Well, there's stories and stories about Paul Bunyan. For many years, old loggers sat around potbellied stoves and told about the good old times with Paul. Those loggers are all gone now, but many of their stories still hang frozen in the cold forest air of the North Woods, waiting to be told. Come spring, when they start to thaw, some of them might just start telling themselves. It's been known to happen.


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